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Celebrate Different

Mrs. Carrie Koch, Head of School

This week in conversations, I had the opportunity to talk about how all students are different. In fact, I believe it is my job to know how each student is different and special, and I believe it to my core. I am so grateful I work at a school that celebrates each child's uniqueness and strives to know each other's strengths and God-given gifts to serve them.

I started my career as a traditional public school teacher. In the first year, students had the same lessons, assignments, and assessments. In year two, I became a renegade. I started pre-testing, giving choices, customizing lessons, and giving math problems to students to make them stretch their wings. In the 1990s, this raised eyebrows, so much so that the superintendent of our large Chicago suburban district visited my classroom. I was terrified. But, I believed in what I was doing and knew in my heart that the 80 students I had that year were all different. Treating them the same, teaching to the middle, served only a few. I wanted them to fly up from whichever branch of the tree of knowledge they were on. I wanted to serve my students. I wanted to celebrate my students. I wanted to see them for who they were. Different and unique individuals.

We have such a special place at Vandermont. Even as a staff, we know how each of us is different and lean into our differences. Ms. Spagnolo keeps us on track. Ms. Robin keeps us organized. Ms. Newton makes sure we keep an eye on standards. Ms. Payne makes sure we are integrating well. Ms. Kilgore guides us spiritually. Ms. Mandy keeps us inspired. Ms. Ray supports us and makes sure we are having fun. Ms. Vertz brings warmth and balance. And me, I wonder what they might say. Like our students, I want to inspire them to fly and reach new heights.

Like we do each other, our teachers look at each student as an individual. We can tell you how they are different because that is deeply embedded in our culture. We love that we look at each student as uniquely, perfectly, and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). We always want to look at them this way, which is the only way to support and teach them to fly.

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